North Korea fires two ballistic missiles into Sea of Japan
North Korea fired two suspected ballistic missiles into the sea Thursday, in what would be its first substantive provocation to the new US administration of Joe Biden.
The nuclear-armed North has a long history of using weapons tests as provocations, in a carefully calibrated process to forward its objectives.
Donald Trump’s first year in office was marked by a series of escalating launches, accompanied by a war of words between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Pyongyang had been biding its time since the new administration took office, not even officially acknowledging its existence until last week.
But Seoul’s joint chiefs of staff said the North launched two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, known as the East Sea in Korea, from South Hamgyong province.
They travelled 450 kilometres and reached a maximum altitude of 60 kilometres, the JCS added, without specifying their type more precisely.
But Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was unequivocal, telling reporters: “North Korea launched two ballistic missiles.”
It had been a year since the last such incident, he added, saying: “This threatens the peace and security of our country and the region. It is also a violation of the UN resolution.”
Tokyo said they came down outside the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.
North Korea is banned from developing any ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions, and is under multiple international sanctions over its weapons programmes.
But it has made rapid progress in its capabilities under Kim, testing missiles capable of reaching the entire continental United States as tensions mounted in 2017.
Trump and Kim then embarked on an extraordinary diplomatic bromance, holding two headline-grabbing summits in Singapore and Vietnam.